Shelter in Place: LA’s Fight for Housing in a Pandemic
Al Jazeera (2021)
This documentary reports on the Los Angeles Reclaimers movement. The latter has supported 20 homeless families in illegally occupying vacant homes owned by the California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS). The state agency bought hundreds of of homes thirty years ago because they were in the path of a planned Interstate expansion. The new freeway, which was never built, was officially scrapped in 2018.
The squatting families occupied the homes last year during a statewide lockdown order making it illegal for them to stay with extended family or friends. Thanks to massive community support, the state government eventually legalized their tenancy by leasing the homes to Los Angeles county. The county, in turn, charges squatters 25-30% of their income for rent. Only one family was forcibly evicted by police.
Given the extremely high rate of homelessness in Los Angeles, homeless advocates raise the legitimate question why the state government fails to open the remaining CALTRANS (vacant) homes to the city’s homeless. At present one-fifth of homeless Americans live in Los Angeles.
The film can be viewed free at https://www.aljazeera.com/program/fault-lines/2021/5/19/shelter-in-place-las-fight-for-housing-in-a-pandemic